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With Harboring Hearts Co-Founder Michelle Javian and Executive Director Missy Shields Raman

 

Harboring Hearts held our annual benefit at the Lincoln Center Penthouse in November. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been going strong for almost nine years. Harboring Hearts was founded when Michelle Javian connected with Yuki Kotani. Both of their fathers had received heart transplants, though Michelle’s father had sadly passed months afterward. They wanted to create a charity to support heart patients and their families-who often deal with the cost and stress of countless hospital visits, overnight stays, and parking-at a time when families just wanted to focus on being there for their loved ones in a time of need. As a heart transplant recipient, I knew firsthand how greatly this support was needed, and became a founding member that year.

Amy Silverstein, who recently wrote a second book about receiving a heart transplant, was the emcee for the evening. She and I once shared the same cardiologist. She had her first heart for 25 years, and it was inspiring to me to see how well she’s doing. It was lovely to meet her and her husband.

We had several esteemed honorees this year – Dr. Paolo Columbo – Medical Director at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, Dr. Erica Jones – Director of the HeartHealth Program at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, Jessica Karp & Jordan Brown of Hu Kitchen, and Helen Irving, President and CEO of LiveOnNY.

I’ve known Helen for many years, from when I worked in the organ & tissue donation field at NJ Sharing Network, and I had the honor of ringing the opening NASDAQ bell with her for Donate Life Month. She is an inspiration to me and so many others, and she and LiveOnNY are responsible for saving thousands of lives of New Yorkers.

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With Helen Irving, President and CEO of LiveOnNY

Of course, the most moving part of the night was connecting with heart patients waiting for hearts and heart transplant recipients that Harboring Hearts has been able to help along the way. I took my annual photo with the adorable Izabella, whom we’ve watched grow up over the years. We helped her family when she received a heart transplant at 17 months old! I always love seeing her and her mom Evelyn.

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The night had a somewhat unexpected surprise for me. I got to meet Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of “Mark” in the musical RENT.  I first saw RENT on a high school trip when I was 16 and waiting for a heart transplant. It hit me, hard, especially the song “No Day But Today.” I remembered how close I came to dying only months earlier, how I needed a new heart to survive long term, how the composer Jonathan Larson had died the night before the show opened on Broadway. All that mattered was that day and that moment. No day but today. I played that song and that soundtrack in the early morning hours as we rode to get my heart transplant. And a year later, I sang that solo in my college a capella group, The Princeton Tigressions.

Hearing Anthony sing “No Day But Today” so many years later at our benefit made all the memories come flooding back. I made me think about all of the heart patients in the room – those who had been to the edge and back, those who were still hanging on, and why providing them and their families with support is so crucial. It was also an important reminder how important today – and every day is. Every moment matters. No day but today.

Jessica Melore with Anthony Rapp

With Anthony Rapp, of RENT